TV channels and retired generals and air marshals and self-appointed experts keep stoking the diplomatic fires.

 

One of the constant irritations an Indian diplomat faces in Pakistan is the misleading and outrageous news given out on television and the print media about India. The Urdu newspapers and magazines are the worst offenders. There is little an Indian ambassador can do, except to bring this crudity and the offensive news items to the notice of the foreign office. As I had easy access to President Zia-ul-Haq, I did on several occasions draw his attention to these falsities. With a straight face he would reply, “Kanwar Sahib, I can do nothing. We have a free media in Pakistan.” He knew as well as I did, that in the case of India what the President was saying was simply not true.

The other day I was sorting out my old files and papers of my stint in Pakistan. I reproduce a sample of the rubbish that was published frequently.

The following appeared on the front page of Nawa-e-Waqt of 27 May 1981 under the heading:

BAD TIME FOR INDIRA GANDHI HAS COME AND SHE WILL BECOME MAD

WORLD WAR WILL BE FOUGHT FOR 18 DAYS IN MAY 1984

“Calcutta-26: Recently a conference of more than 100 astrologers was held in Calcutta in which experts in astrology from abroad also took part. They made a prophecy about the happening in the future years and also said that the worse situation which India is facing now in its economic, political and religion spheres, will continue for another few years. Rajiv Gandhi will become Prime Minister of India in 1985. Indira Congress will split and in the end of 1981 Indira Gandhi will lose control over it. Problem of Assam will become very tough for Indira Gandhi and it is quite possible that it may prove harmful for her future political career. A war will be fought between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue. Iran and Iraq conflict will continue during 1981 and no ceasefire will take place. Third World War will be fought for 18 days in May 1984. Centre of the World War will be Middle East but Asian subcontinent will also be affected. Relations with China will improve; with USSR will become stronger. Relations with Bangladesh will become worse and ultimately India will have to fight a war with Bangladesh and Pakistan. Every astrologer was firm in his views that a bad time has come for Indira and situation will worsen to such an extent that she will go mad. Under these circumstances, there is every possibility that India will be involved in war with her neighbours. It should be borne in mind that this Conference of Astrology was inaugurated by the Industries Minister Charanjit Chand. Deputy Minister of information and Broadcasting Mrs Joshi also delivered a speech.”

Pakistan is occupying much space in the media for the past two weeks. This is not surprising, following Pulwama and our non-military surgical strikes or whatever they are called.

TV channels and retired generals and air marshals and self-appointed experts keep stoking the diplomatic fires. This should stop.

Prime Minister Imran Khan the other day made a statement that he would not permit any terrorists to use Pakistan’s territory to launch terrorist attacks on any country. Welcome words. Let us see if he can deliver.

***

R.K. Narayan (1906-2001) was an intimate friend of mine for 40 years. I have included many of his letters to me in my recently published book, Treasured Epistles. He narrowly missed getting the Nobel Prize for Literature. His name was proposed several times by Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General. He had spoken to several admirers that he would ensure R.K. Narayan would get the prize in 1962. He was a member of the Nobel Prize Award Committee. Unfortunately, Dag Hammarskjold was killed in an air crash in September 1961 in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia.

A few days ago, B.Y. Raghavendra, MP from Shivamogga suggested that the railway station Arasalu on the Shivamogga-Talaguppa route be renamed as Malgudi, the fictional town immortalised by R.K. in his novels. I fully support the suggestion.

 

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